Monday, 16 November 2015

I walked through Middle Earth, but didn't see a single Hobbit

Seems like I've walked the length of Aotearoa... that's the Land of the Long White Cloud to you and me:
990 miles eh? Not too shabby!
I'm pretty surprised to be honest, especially since I've hardly walked anywhere in the last couple of weeks thanks to the diabolical weather.

Oh... and I didn't see any Wizards, Dwarves, Goblins or Elves either!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Someone's been busy again!

A dog's got to do what a dog's got to do! lol

How the other half lived

The only complete building still standing within the Glastonbury Abbey complex is the Abbot's Kitchen. This rather impressive structure, built between 1320 - 1370, was untouched during the Dissolution of Monasteries because it is built entirely of stone unlike the rest of the Abbey structures, which were lead roofed (the lead, being expensive, was stripped from the rest of the Abbey leaving the structures open to the weather).

The Abbott's Kitchen

Glastonbury's Abbot’s Kitchen is one of the best preserved medieval kitchens in Europe. As already stated it dates from the early 14th century and as you can probably see, is a square structure with an octagonal stone tiled roof rising to a two-stage octagonal lantern louvre which let out the smoke from the cooking fires while drawing in clean, fresh air. The structure has unusual round buttresses on all four sides. How the kitchen connected to the Abbot's residence is uncertain, but excavations suggest via a roofed walkway.

The 80 or so Benedictine monks who lived at the Abbey would have had a pretty spartan lifestyle, spending much of their day either in prayer or singing the praises of their Lord God. Their diet is somewhat hazy, but seems to have consisted primarily of dairy products, fruit & vegetables, fish and on high feast days some small amount of meat. Not so the Abbot.

Over the centuries the various abbots at Glastonbury have been amongst the richest men in England. As such they have looked after themselves particularly well, feasting kings, barons and dignitaries from both Britain and further afield. Did the Abbot stick to a mostly meat-free diet? Not likely! Just have a look around inside the Abbot's Kitchen:

The Roasting Frame
The Roasting Frame (rotisserie), capable of holding a dozen fowl and a couple of carcases, hogs in the example here. An alternative rotisserie capable of holding larger carcasses (for whole beef or horse) would also have been available.

Preparation Table
The Preparation Board may also have been used for dinning, though it is unlikely the Abbot would have eaten here. The Board would have seen a hive of activity, especially on feast days as the various dishes were prepared here. Note the Boiling Station in the background used for cooking the vegetables and boiled meats.

Boiling Station
Most medieval kitchens had a Boiling Station with one or possibly two rise and fall hangers, but being a very rich man the Abbot of Glastonbury had four pot hangers as well as various floor standing pan stands.

With a staff of around 20, The Kitchener would no doubt have had a lot of fun in this kitchen. He would also have enjoyed considerable power and status and been among the best of European chefs.

As well as the areas shown here the Abbot's Kitchen had a bread oven and a patisserie, where pies and delicate pastries were prepared for Abbot's delight. Pretty amazing, eh? And remember this kitchen serviced just one man most of the year. As an outsider an invite to the Abbot of Glastonbury's table must have been much sought after.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Avalon, maybe

Glastonbury Abbey may have been the biggest draw to the town in years past, especially for those Christians wishing to 'buy' their way into Heaven... or at least to ensure some respite from Purgatory. These days though the faithful millions flock to Glastonbury either for the music festivals or to visit the mystical Isle of Avalon.

Glastonbury Tor, known as Ynys yr Afalon to the ancient Britains, is reputed to be the Isle of Avalon from Arthurian legend... well it may or may not be, but one thing is certain; in the days before the Somerset Levels were drained the Tor would have stood proud above a waterlogged landscape. These days the Tor stands proud to the east of Glastonbury town and is a landmark visible from miles around.

Glastonbury Tor
Whether you believe in Arthur, the Once and Future King, or not is entirely up to you, but if he existed he may well have visited Glastonbury and consequently the Tor.

Gwyn ap Nudd's home?
Other folk, those who believe in fairies for example, believe Glastonbury Tor to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fairy Folk... mmmm, yeah, right.

The actual Tor itself is a conical hill topped with the remains of St. Michael's Tower, all that remains of St. Michael's Church erected in the 14th century by Abbot Adam of Sodbury. The tower is a grade 1 listed building managed by the National Trust.

St Michael's Tower
Should you visit Glastonbury for whatever reason I urge you to make the effort and climb the Tor... it's not easy, but it is worth it... the views from the top are simply stunning, especially on a clear day.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A lovely re-union day

I had a day out with a very good friend yesterday who was visiting the UK from her home in Bavaria. Sadly I don't get to see Silvia very often, but like all good friendships ours is such that whenever we get together it always seems as though we were never apart. I'll blog a little about my catch-up with Silvia over the next day or so, but thought I'd start by introducing a new friend.

I spent a very pleasant 45 minutes with an extremely attractive wench... lucky me, eh? Her name was Mistress Elizabeth a 15th Century tour guide at Glastonbury Abbey. Nice costume, lovely personality and well informed, just what you need when touring one of England's most important ancient monuments.

image of Mistress Elizabeth
Mistress Elizabeth strutting her stuff

Friday, 9 October 2015

Never ever again...

There are times when I just feel so damn ashamed of myself, like whining because I got a puncture and had to stop at the side of the road to repair it. Just take a look at this guy:

I promise I'll never moan about having to repair a puncture again!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Italy Badge Earned

I started wearing a Fitbit Flex that I got free back in June and religiously recording my activities from June 22nd. I was actually quite surprised to find how far I walked each week, mostly with Tilly of course although I do walk for both exercise and pleasure. Anyway I had a bit of a shock yesterday when Fitbit awarded me the Italy Badge for having walked 736 miles... that's the whole length of Italy apparently.

Italy Badge - 736 miles walked
Go me, eh? Of course since Fitbit awarded me this badge I must've walked at least another 15 miles, so right now I'm either high up in the Alps or deep under the Mediterranean Sea! lol

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

All wet and soggy

Given the time of year I suppose I should expect my morning ride to be a bit damp occasionally, but this morning I got caught out in a torrential downpour. Fortunately it only lasted 15 minutes or so, unfortunately it left me drenched. So wet in fact I had to empty water out of my shoes when I got home!

Most car drivers don't appreciate why cyclists avoid puddles or riding in the gutter, but the reasons are simple:

  • You have no idea what's in the bottom of a puddle
  • If you're cycling in the gutter you get the hell of a lot more splash-back when it is wet

Don't know what splash-back is? Well...

Cycling in the Rain
Splash-back refers to all the water thrown up by the front wheel when cycling in wet conditions. The wetter the road, the more water is thrown back at the rider. In my case this morning there was so much water being thrown up from the road it streamed back down my shins and filled my shoes.

I was thinking as I ploughed on through the driving rain some kind of weather proof canopy would have been handy... then I remembered I'd actually seen one such thing:

Wet Proofing
Can't imagine me ever buying one of those somehow, but it is an intriguing idea.

So anyway since I was soaked to the skin I curtailed my ride this morning shortening my route to just under 14 miles instead of the 22 I had originally planned.

Shortened Route

Monday, 28 September 2015

Looks like someone's been having a sly nibble!

Nom nom...

Image of Fly Agaric
Fly Agaric
Someone obviously thought this Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria) was a tasty morsel, you wouldn't catch me nibbling on it though!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Come out come out whatever you are

Walking with Tilly across one of the local fields yesterday when something small and furry scampered through the grass and disappeared down a hole. No idea whether it was a mouse or a vole and I don't think Tilly really cared, she just wanted to stick her nose into the orifice and snuffle lol

Come out! I know you're in there...

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Another Beautiful Morning

A stunning start to the day again today: bright, crisp and dry with lots of early morning mist hanging over water and the lower ground... another beautiful morning for an early bike ride, which I took full advantage of.

Early Morning Mist

I started with a sprint through the lanes to Redwick before looping back to Bishton... this section is mostly flat so great for speed training.

From Bishton I headed toward Underwood and Llanmartin and began the climb from the Severn flood plains. This section of the route climbs more or less continually from the 7 mile marker to the 14 mile marker so is a great section for muscle development.

There's a downhill respite between Llanvair Discoed and Five Lanes, but the route climaxes with the climb up Carrow Hill to the 17 mile marker before sweeping back down on the final stretch into Undy.

All in all a lovely way to burn 1000 calories.

This was my route today:

Friday, 25 September 2015

Beautiful morning ride

Got going for my early morning ride just as the sun was coming up today and what a spectacular sunrise it was too... wish I'd had a video camera with me to record the gradual colour change in the morning sky. I do have a still though:

Good Morning, Sunshine

My first eight miles consisted of three quite long hill climbs to get the blood pumping and the knees aching, which took me from Undy to Park Wall (the 8 mile mark on the my map). From there I dropped down to Black Rock (the 10 mile mark) where I took a drink and a short breather overlooking the Severn Estuary and the Second Severn Crossing.

I left Black Rock on the Wales Coastal Path and followed this off and on through Sudbrook, Portskewett and Caldicot on my return to Undy.

Here's a map of my route:

Monday, 21 September 2015

Early morning exercise

I found sleep hard to come by on Saturday night so I finally gave up and got out of bed at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and went for a walk.

The dark doesn't trouble me, but I wouldn't recommend everyone to get up and go out while it is still dark, which it very much is at that time of day here. Still the world is a quiet place in this neck of the woods and once outside the bounds of the village I enjoyed the solitude and night noises of the small animals going about their daily lives.

Night Sky
The moon peeking through the broken cloud gave a hint of the promise of the day to come. I found it surprisingly warm as I walked and about an hour into my route I began to wish I hadn't work two layers under my jacket.

One or two lights shone from farm house windows as I strode on and by 6:30 a.m. the odd motorist had appeared on the road meaning I'd have to take a little more care in the half-light since the country lane I was walking on is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other and motorists tend to drive on the crown of the road. The early morning travellers do provide some interesting visuals though.

Streamed Head & Tail lights
All in all I enjoyed my early morning exercise and with almost nine miles under my belt by the time I arrived home I was certainly ready for a hearty breakfast!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Year of the Goat

According to the Chinese zodiac 2015 is the Year of the Goat. I won't argue with that, but I will put a twist on it since the local raptor population has boomed this year by saying 2015 ought to have been the Year of the Rodent... as I'm sure we're all well aware raptors rely heavily on rodents in their diet so it follows that a boom year for raptors must mean a boom year for rodents.

European Buzzards were a common enough sight when my grandfather was a kid, but by the time my childhood came around they had been all but eradicated from this part of the world. Thanks to modern farming methods and revised thinking British birds of prey have made a remarkable comeback over the years and the European Buzzard population is now thriving. In fact there are so many buzzards in this area now it is a wonder how they all survive.

I encountered several buzzards on my walk this morning, both in the air and standing sentinel on posts, tree branches and telegraph poles.

I have my eye on you
It still amazes me that anyone should have wanted to destroy such beautiful animals, but time was when buzzards were shot on sight.

Buzzard in flight
Like many large birds Buzzards might appear ungainly on the ground, but to see them wheeling in the morning skies and calling to each other makes me glad to be alive.

I borrowed this picture of Fudge from Predator Experience, I'm sure they won't mind. Isn't he beautiful?

Fudge the Buzzard

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Getting it right

Are you surprised when you get a really favourable response from a big national concern? I am and because of that I feel the need to document what for me was an unusual event... beware, you might find this boring! lol

Following the dismal failure of my new mini-pump (previous entry) I took a trip into my local Halfords this morning to lodge a complaint. My expectations were pretty low to say the least and I was quite prepared to argue for a refund/replacement. Imagine my surprise when instead of having to do battle with some ignorant twot I found myself talking to an intelligent and sympathetic young man who not only replaced the faulty goods, but upgraded the duff Bikehut pump to one of these:

Lezyne ABS Flex Hose

This Lezyne mini pump is the Rolls Royce of cycle mini pumps so I am one very happy bunny.

Thank you to Halfords Newport and Lee in particular: you are most certainly getting it right.

Well Done!

Just a lot of hot air

Since I've started getting out and about on my bike for exercise recently I thought it was time I treated myself to a modern dual-action pump for those frustrating flat tyre moments. My old pump was perfectly serviceable, but only delivered air on the in stroke while the newer designs inflate on both in and out strokes making tyre inflation so much quicker (very handy when you consider cycle tyres often need pressures of 60 psi and above to operate efficiently).

So I took a trip to my local Halfords store to have a look and see what was available and eventually bought myself one of these:

Bikehut Dual-Action Pump
This is the Dual-Action Mini-Pump from Bikehut. It appears robust, is neat, comes with a great frame-clip, is rated at 100 psi and incorporates a handy pressure gauge in the head... 

Pump Head Detail

Looked ideal to me.


I clipped the pump to my bike and there it sat looking pretty for a couple of weeks while I trundled around the local countryside. Then of course the inevitable happened and I got a puncture. Patching the tube was doddle so having done that I took the new pump and tried to re-inflate my tyre...

The damn pump is defective constantly leaking air so no matter how hard you pump air into the tube it just leaks back out through the fecking pump leaving the tyre as flat as a witches tit!

Considering I was miles from nowhere you may imagine I was less than pleased with my purchase. My advice to anyone in the market for a new bike pump would be avoid this particular model.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Autumn has arrived quickly

Funny old thing the British weather, it gives endless topics for us Brits to discuss and here I go with yet another. We are currently enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer just now, which is great... luvs a bit of sunshine me. Be that as it may though Mother Nature is busy reminding us that the year is ticking on and the Autumn fruits are starting to show in abundance.

Puff Balls
These little puff balls grow, ripen and spawn all in a matter of hours. They are edible, but you have to catch them early or you'll find they are past their best. Interesting little things to look at though especially in their various stages like this group here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Woodsman Spare That Tree!

With so much of our woodland marked for clearing it's good to see the local tree huggers making a stand with their silent protest...

Woodsman Spare That Tree!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

10,000 steps a day; is that really enough?

Experts say that while 10,000 steps a day is a good number to reach, but any amount of activity beyond what you're currently doing will likely benefit your health.

Walking is something most of us can do and if, like many others, you find yourself with a sedentary lifestyle I urge you get out there and give it a go... you don't need any special equipment and it's free exercise.

Walking for Health

The origins of the 10,000-steps recommendation aren't exactly scientific. Pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s were marketed under the name "manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps meter." I'd guess that's where the magical 10,000 steps a day comes from.

For some reason best known to themselves many people seem to think walking 10,000 steps a day means they are actively fit, maintaining a health body and probably losing weight. WRONG!

Don't be fooled. The 10,000 step figure isn't the be all and end all of everyday fitness, especially if those 10,000 steps you walk are strolled at a snail's pace back and forth in your office or around a shopping mall. No, to gain any kind of real health benefit you need to walk at a reasonably constant pace of around 4 miles per hour (approximately 6.5 kph). A mile every 15 minutes isn't that quick really if you're sound of limb.

I average around 15,000 steps a day on a day when I don't walk for exercise (average burn around 3000 kilo-calories). Those 15,000 steps might be good for me, but they don't do much for weight loss. The days when I walk for exercise (a couple of days a week) I average around 25,000 steps Average burn around 4200 kilo-calories). That extra thousand or so kilo-calories is where the weight loss comes from.

The days when I don't walk for exercise I go for a bike ride (anything between 8 and 25 miles depending on my route) and burn extra calories that way.
Usually when I walk for exercise I try to maintain a 4 mph speed over a distance of 5 or 6 miles. When I cycle my aim is maintaining an average speed of 13 mph, which doesn't sound as though I'm working very hard. It's easy on flat roads, but not so easy when you're negotiating the hills and valleys Wales is famous for hence the difference between the distances in my routes. And bear in mind I've only recently started cycling again after a break of more than a decade so am still 'building up' my cardiovascular side and I'm battling with arthritic knees to boot.

So anyway to answer my original question, is 10,000 steps a day really enough? No in my opinion 10,000 steps a day isn't enough to maintain a healthy body and lose weight unless you actively partake in some other form of exercise. It may be a great starting point to getting back into exercise, but if you want to gain fitness and lose weight as I do you will need to do more.

My stats so far today

Steps: 16,205
Distance: 7.17 miles
Calories Burned: 2214

Cycling: 1 hr 21 min
Distance: 14.4 Miles
Calories burned: 2200

Total Active Minutes: 220
Total Calories out: 4414
Total Calories in: 738

Monday, 7 September 2015

MAMIL - or Men in Tights II

Yeah so Usky has joined the MAMIL cycling crew and a scary bunch of individuals we are, believe me. There are a growing number of us it seems and we can be seen on all four corners of the world.

For the uninitiated the definition of MAMIL is Middle Aged Men In Lycra.

It's true to say that many folk take the piss of us MAMIL types and with some good reason it has to be said since there are some really horrendous sights out there. Just look at these guys for example:

Thankfully NOT Usky

Thankfully NOT Usky either
There are some very well known members of MAMIL:

London Mayor Boris Johnson

Of course guys like these have been the cause of a certain amount of humour:

Don't know who Cadel Evans is? Look him up!
So what about your local hero and author, Usky then? Well these are what the first pair of cycling leggings I bought look like:

I have the red ones

And this is what they look like on:

Usky's bum and legs

It's not easy to take selfie's of your bum and legs without a selfie stick and thank God I don't possess one of those!

So there we are... Usky, a fully paid up member of MAMIL and proud of it! lol

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Morning Sunlight

I love the way early morning sunlight dapples its way through the trees forming patters of colour, light and darkness. There is some evidence that early morning sunlight is good for the body too... it even helps us lose weight apparently.

Morning Sunlight at Slade Woods

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, goes the old adage and there may well be truth in that. Scientists have discovered that getting a good dose of early morning sunshine really does improve health by lowering body fat.

They say even just 20-30 minutes of morning sunlight is enough to keep off the pounds, in a study that links weight to light. 
Results indicate that early morning light triggers certain genes which are linked to the internal body clock and kick-starts the metabolism.

Whether or not any of this is true I have no idea, but I do know being out and about early either cycling or walking certainly gives me an appetite... so now that Tilly has been walked, fed and watered I'm off to find some breakfast!

Saturday, 5 September 2015


I thought these were over for the season, but I'm very happy to see I was wrong. There is something about wild poppies that always brings a smile to my face.

Wild Poppies

Friday, 4 September 2015

Men in Tights

Did I tell you I was into a bit of a fitness kick? No? Well I am and as part of that I've started cycling again for the first time in a decade or so. Since walking Tilly tends to take priority during the bulk of the day I'm getting out and about on my bike in the early hours and believe me it is already pretty cold at this time of the year at 6:00am of a morning... so I decided to invest in some of those cycling leggings you see the real bikers wearing. I'm sure you know the sort of thing so I won't bother showing you a picture of them, but suffice it to say being made of a skin-tight lycra type material they hug the old legs a treat and show all my lumps and bumps. I suppose I should also mention these leggings have a padded crotch area, so I've no doubt they really make my ass look large when viewed from the rear!

Anyway I wore my new tights this morning for the first time and:

  1. found them really comfortable
  2. found they kept my legs warm
  3. seemed to make me more streamlined
So I had a 22 mile ride before breakfast and stopped at one of Newport's landmarks for a brief half-way water break...
Pointers at Newport Transporter Bridge

The above signpost points to other transporter bridges around the world... there aren't many still standing and rather sadly even fewer in working order.

Commemorative Plate

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Student Accommodation

Installed the daughter in her new student digs today since she's returned to university to further her education and boy what a shock I got. I'm aware things are hard in some parts of the country, but this is ridiculous!

No roof...
No doors...
No windows...

Part furnished, they said... Really?

The landlady and her husband seem like nice people though and I got to meet a couple of the other 'residents'; I'm happy to say there wasn't a rodent among them... we did have to move a few sheep on though! :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Art of Squirrel Hunting

Stand very still and listen to the little shits playing in the trees...
then when they venture on to the ground...
run like feck and chase 'em!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Sleeping Dogs

Better let my sleeping dog lie
Just in case
She may open one eye
Stare at my face
Not like what she'll see
Get down from the sofa
And pee over me!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

I'd rather be waking up to this

Don't you just love a sunrise over the ocean? I certainly do.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Lydford Runic Stone

This is a carved granite Rune Stone found in Lydford, West Devon. I can't read runic writing, but I think it commemorates a battle between Saxons and Vikings fought at the Saxon Burgh of Hlidanford (Lydford) in or around the year AD997.

Lydford Rune Stone

Thursday, 27 August 2015

I do love a nice bit of lamb... I'm very thankful to the ram 
for doing what comes natural
by providing the ewes
with quality seed
to feed
my never ending table.

Image inspired childhood memories...

Here we go round the mulberry bush on a

Cold & Frosty Morning